Tattoo History 8: Myanmar’s Tattooed Chin Women

All pictures are by Eric Lafforgue, not myself.

There are 135 different ethnic groups in Myanmar. One of them is called Chin, after the Chin state that they live in. Each of these groups has rich cultural traditions. The Chin people are known for their remarkable face tattoos. The women of Chin state have been getting face tattoos since the eleventh century according to legend.

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The tradition of tattooing the faces of girls started when a Burmese king visited the area. Becoming enthralled with the young women he kidnapped one young girl to be his bride. The elders then decided to tattoo their young girls faces to dissuade other men from stealing them. It is also said to make them more beautiful, and to be able to tell them apart from the women in other tribes. The third legend of the beginning of face tattooing is that local pastors told them only those with face tattoos would get into heaven. This being after the area was colonized by British missionaries.

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There are different tattoo patterns for different groups within the Chin state. For example, the M’uun women have more sloping, curved shapes, the Yin Du have long vertical lines that cross the entire face, and the Uppriu have their entire face tattooed full of dots.

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As with most of these ancient tattoo traditions, it is extremely painful to get them done. The tattoos are made using leaves, grass, and soot. The leaves are used to make colour, the soot is sued as a disinfectant and binding agent, and the grass shoots are later used to wrap the tattoo, giving a natural bandage. The tattoo is given using long, sharp cane thorns. The face would stay swollen for 5-7 days, but it was all worth it for the beauty and tradition!

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The government banned getting these tattoos in the 60’s, but some women still practise this ancient tradition since they are so far from the capital.

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The women who still have their face tattoos love them and see them as a beautiful addition to their bodies. The younger generations don’t seem to like how they look for the most part, but the older women stick together and still admire each others art.

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Winnipeg Artist 12: Joel Mijker

Joel is an artist working out of Rebel Waltz Tattoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Classic cry baby.
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Big panther and a snake locked in battle.
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Deconstructed anchor and a bit of a seascape/sunset.
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Fingers crossed.
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Swallows and a heart for mom.
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Spooky demon.

Joel does classic American traditional tattoos. He has plenty of flash to choose from, or you can bring an idea to him.

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Good luck horseshoe. This design used to usually be done with the horseshoe facing upright, to keep the luck in. But now people seem to get it upside down more and more, seeming to be a sign of making your own luck.
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Nice vacation in a bottle with this one.
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Geisha with a beautiful kimono and umbrella.
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Blackwork stomach with geometric flowers and peony. Lots of lines!
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Black rose and Bert Grimm crying heart.
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Mean looking spider and crying eye.

Joel does both colour pieces as well as blackwork.

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Blackwork peony in more of a Japanese style.
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Twisty dragon, an American take on a Japanese design.
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Geometric vase and wrap around snake.
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Traditional Aboriginal lady head.
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Fortune teller lady head and Bert Grimm tiger head.

You can search him up on Instagram and see when he is doing walk-ins, or contact him and set up an appointment.

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Sleazy Mickey.
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Blackwork snake.
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Tough boxer and rose in blackwork style.
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Butterfly for a gap filler.
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Crowned Jesus blackwork piece.

Joel sticks to the classics, and does it well. He has crisp bold lines and solid shading, all within a readable trad piece.  He is a must visit artist if you’re in Winnipeg.

Artist of the Month: Jimmy Ho

Jimmy Ho is a tattoo artist in Hong Kong. Jimmy has had his own shop since he was 14, and was tattooing before that, thanks to his father, James. His father opened Hong Kong’s first tattoo shop in 1946 called “The Rose Tattoo”, and by 1950 the shop was working non-stop to fill the demands of American soldiers getting tattooed. Jimmy has had his own shop since 1958.

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An in progress pic of chest panels and half sleeves done in traditional Chinese style.
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Jimmy tattooing a dragon onto Chinese movie star Michael Chan in the 1970’s.

Jimmy started tattooing sailors at night before he was 14, when his fathers shop was technically closed. He wanted to help out and make some money so he started doing them himself, and has been tattooing ever since.

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Three Chinese dragons.
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Tiger flash from 1983

During the Korean war he and the other artists at his father’s shop would tattoo 30-40 men per day due to the high demand. Jimmy would tattoo soldiers everyday from 11am until 4am, non stop.

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Chinese dragon as a full back piece.
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Raijin and dragons done in 1984 or 85.

Jimmy has his own style, modelled after his fathers. A mix of traditional Chinese and American traditional, but specializing in dragons.

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Dragon and lady done in 1975.
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Beautiful forearm dragon piece.

Jimmy still tattoos, but most of the pictures on his Instagram are from the 70s-90s if you’re trying to find a portfolio.

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Chinese movie star Andy Lau in 1997.
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Sign for Jimmy’s tattoos in Hong Kong.

There are some differences between Chinese and Japanese dragons, as you’ll see in Jimmy’s work. His dragons usually have 4 claws, which was used in ancient Chinese history for high ranking officials and nobility, while the 3 toed dragons were for common people, as well as the Japanese.

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Eagle and mudan flower from 1982 or 83.

If you can’t make it all the way to Hong Kong for a tattoo you can always get some of Jimmy’s flash off of big cartel here.   tattooflash.bigcartel.com

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Jimmy with some of his flash that you can buy on big cartel.

Namakubi Tattoos:

Namakubi tattoos are one of the most popular and recognizable motifs in Japanese tattooing.

Alessandro Lauricella
More of a neo Japanese style hand namakubi, done by Alessandro Lauricella.
Hide Ichibay Three Tides Tattoo Tokyo
Very traditional lady namakubi done by Hide Ichibay at Three Tides Tattoo in Tokyo.
Ichi tattoo
Namakubi chest piece done by Ichi Hatano at Ichi Tattoo in Tokyo.
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Namakubi and snake done by Sergey Vaskevich in Warsaw, Poland.
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Heavily stylized namakubi done by Zach Black at Akara Arts Tattoo  in Wisconsin.

Namakubi are severed heads, usually fresh, and sometimes impaled on stakes, arrows, or swords/knives.

Alex Rusty Artist:owner at @Lighthouse_Tattoo in Sydney, Australia
Blue and bloody namakubi done by Alex Rusty at Lighthouse Tattoo in Sydney, Australia.
Horiei Shinshu 信州 彫英 based in Japan🇯🇵Matsumoto City,Nagano
Neo Japanese piece done by Horiei Shinshu in Matsumoto, Japan.
Jeremy Deboer • Tattooing since 2011 • INK WIZARDS- Adelaide
Broken katana through the head done by Jeremy Deboer in Adelaide.
Shinya Studio Muscat Tokyo
Heavy black piece by Shinya at Studio Muscat in Tokyo, Japan.

Namakubi can have a number of different meanings including respect for the enemy, overcoming a fear, or accepting ones own fate with honour.

Andrew Nectar Fine Tattooing, Lethbridge Alberta
Three arrows through a head in a more American traditional style piece. Done by Andrew Nectar at Fine Tattooing in Lethbridge, Alberta.
Horihana Kirin Tattoo Brasil
Bleeding head done by Horihana at Kirin Tattoo in Brasil.
Lango Oliveira at Black Heart Tattoo in San Francisco
Ghastly namakubi done by Lango Oliveira at Black Heart Tattoo in San Francisco.
Stephen Doan
Blackwork namakubi with arrows done by Stephen Doan.

In ancient Japanese history, taking the head of ones enemy is the ultimate sign of respect and honour. It is also a representation of life’s full circle coming to an end.

Ash Davies Stronghold Tattoo, Cardiff Bay
Sword right through the cheeks by Ash Davies at Stronghold Tattoo in Cardiff Bay.
Horishige Osaka Japan
Japanese namakubi part of a bodysuit, done by Horishige in Osaka, Japan.
Matteo Ceccarini ◇JAPANESE TATTOOING◇ Black Line Tattoo Studio, Mallorca:Extreme Needle Tattoo Studio, London
Half sleeve with maple leaves done by Matteo Ceccarini at Extreme Needle Tattoo Studio in London, England.
Tamar Karp Now taking bookings at The Black Lodge, Portishead...Bristol
Crazy eyed namakubi done by Tamar Karp at The Black Lodge in Bristol.

Namakubi are almost always done in a traditional Japanese style, but can also be done in neo Japanese, neo traditional, and American traditional styles.

Dan Arietti Tattooist:owner Black sails tattoo Brighton
Rotting neo traditional namakubi done by Dan Arietti at Black Sails Tattoo in Brighton.
Horiyoshi 3 Yokohama Japan
Sliced open namakubi done by Horiyoshi the third in Yokohama, Japan.
Rich Handford Kapala Tattoo Winnipeg
Matching legs done by Rich Handford at Kapala Tattoo in Winnipeg Manitoba.
Zach Black Akara Arts Tattoo, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Another neo Japanese piece done by Zach Black at Akara Arts Tattoo in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Which is your favourite?

Shibari Tattoos:

NSFW. Shibari is the ancient Japanese artistic form of rope bondage. In Japanese, Shibari simply means “to tie.”

Alix Ge Alix Ge tattoo, chez @misericorde.sete France
Snake and woman in Shibari ropes done by Alix Ge in France.
Phil Kaulen Tattoo Cologne | Tattooer&Star Wars Geek! 🔫 Partner in crime to @ohheavyheart | Working at Elektrotinte Tattoo
Blackwork woman in kimono done by Phil Kaulen at Elektrotinte Tattoo.
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Full Shibari back piece and octopus done by Zhuo Dan Ting at Shanghai Tattoo in China.

Shibari dates back to the 1400’s when police and samurai would use Hojo-jutsu, the martial art of restraining captives. This was used to both imprison captives as well as torture.

Alvaro Contreras Barcelona
Woman tied up, upside down done by Alvaro Contreras in Barcelona.
SAD AMISH Tattooer BODY LOVER OPEN JUNE BORDEAUX
Delicate blackwork piece by Sad Amish tattooer at The Church tattoo in Bordeaux.
Wes Harrison Black Wren tattoo , Bendigo . Devils ink tattoo , Melbourne
Neo traditional demon woman in Shibari rope done by Wes Harrison at Black Wren Tattoo.

By the late 1800’s and early 1900’s this evolved into a new kind of erotic rope tying called Kinbaku. Today, this erotic art form is generally just called Shibari.

Clara Welsh Tattooer at Evil From the Needle, Camden UK
Red rope Shibari woman done by Clara Welsh at Evil From the Needle in Camden UK.
Scott Garitson 💀TIL' DEATH DENVER
Heart and Shibari rope by Scott Garitson at Til’ Death Denver.

The knots used in Shibari accentuate characteristics in the models body, and show sensuality, vulnerability, as well as strength. The ropes create geometric patterns on the models body that contrast the bodies natural curves.

inserseriusseries La Coruña: Working at two of hearts tattoo
More Japanese style piece, featuring her own Japanese tattoos done by inserseriusseries at Two Of Hearts Tattoo.
Sergey Vaskevich
Torture by Shibari done by Sergey Vaskevich in Warsaw.

Shibari tattoos are erotic and sensual, showing off the human form in all its beauty. They are often done in black work, black and grey, realism, and neo traditional styles.

Lopes_Onepunch 💣Tattooer at @Gonefishing_Tattoo, Portimão, Portugal
Blackwork heart and rope done by Lopes Onepunch at Gone fishing tattoo in Portugal.
Tine DeFiore ::tiny of the flowers::Chicago::owner @blackoaktattoo:
Leg wrapped in rope by Tine DeFiore at Black Oak Tattoo in Chicago.

To see some live Shibari art please check out shibari.jp to see my favourite Shibari artist, Hajime Kinoko.

Németh S. Csilla Deep Art Tattoo, Nové Zámky
Realistic black and grey piece done by Németh S. Csilla at Deep Art Tattoo in Nové Zámky.
Ufoo Tattoo ✖️Dark Comics Work✖️Blackwork✖️ working at Kult Tattoo Fest
Blackwork shibari and video camera done by Ufoo Tattoo at Kult Tattoo Fest.

To learn more about the history and art of Shibari please check out http://www.artofcontemporaryshibari.com